Category Archives: Angeline Hawkes

Haunted by the Bone Tree

The Bone Tree
Christopher Fulbright
Bad Moon Books
trade paper, 99 p, $17.95
ebook, $3.99 Kindle Nook 

This novella, short though it is, is one of the best ghost stories I’ve read in quite a while.  It’s also a good coming of age story.   Set in a small town south of Dallas in 1978, it’s the story of two friends, one white, one black, who discover that there are worse things hunting in the night than the difficulties they face by day.

Kevin, the narrator, is best friends with Bobby.  This is a good thing, although it’s not always easy.  Bobby’s skin is the wrong color in this small town, and to make matters worse, his father died a few years ago.  Bobby’s mother struggles to make ends meet.

The boys find solace in their tree house, which looks down on a creek.  One afternoon, while sharing comics, they see a younger boy, Tommy, being chased down the creek.  What’s chasing him is something out of a nightmare.  At least that’s what Tommy claims.  They decide to walk Tommy home, past the old cemetery and around a white, dead tree they call the bone tree.  On the way home, they discover that Tommy was not only telling the truth, but that he didn’t know the whole truth.

Kevin and Bobby learn that no good deed goes unpunished, but Kevin grows to realize that just because that’s true doesn’t mean you should back down in the face of evil, whether that evil is a racist bully or something far worse from the other side of the grave.

Fulbright has been steadily building a body of work in the horror and dark fantasy fields for a number of years now.  I should also mention in the interests of full disclosure that he and his wife Angeline Hawkes (author of Out of the Garden, reviewed here) have been friends of mine for a number of years. I’m not giving him a good review because he’s my friend, however.  This book is that good.

In addition to having some genuinely creepy chills, such as when Bobby hears a tapping at his window and his dead father’s voice calls to him, there are moments that are truly moving, like when Kevin’s father tells him he did the right thing by standing up and fighting a bully.

Fulbright captures the time and place perfectly.  I was about the same age as Kevin in 1978, living in north Texas and attending a racially divided school, and there were places in the story where the writing took me back.  In fact there was only one fault I could find.  Kevin mentions watching Battlestar Galactica after having gone to school earlier in the day.  This threw me out of the story a bit because Battlestar Galactica aired on Sunday nights.  (Don’t ask how I remember this.)

The Bone Tree is a perfect Halloween story.  The price for the trade paperback is a little steep, but the ebook is a bargain.  It can be yours in seconds with just a few clicks.  This one I highly recommend.

Out of the Garden and into my Library

Out of the Garden
Angeline Hawkes
Bad Moon Books
Trade Paper, 393 p., $20.00
ebook $3.99 Kindle  Nook

If you enjoy a good barbarian story, and who doesn’t, then you might want to check out the latest from Angeline Hawkes.  While most of her recent work is in the field of horror, she makes the occasional foray into the realms of fantasy, often giving us another exploit of her barbarian character, Kabar of El Hazzar.  All the stories so far have been collected in this volume.

These are pseudohistorical fantasies that may or may not take place in our world.  Some of the references to historical places and peoples, such as Nineveh or Hebrews, would incline one to think so.  But then there are references to all sorts of places that never existed.

None of which is really relevant.  What is, is the answer to the question, are the stories entertaining?

Yes, yes they are.  The title story, also the longest in the book, is by far the most unusual, in that Kabar wanders into the Garden of Eden long after Adam and Eve have left.  He finds it’s not uninhabited.  The other eleven stories vary in length, with some being short stories and others novelettes or novellas. 

The tone and plot vary, as well, from one story to the next.  Although several have the same basic plot skeleton, that being Kabar must go and fight a monster to bring back a magic item to aid someone, the difference and enjoyment is in the details. 

Kabar isn’t your typical Clonan.  Whereas Conan is a wanderer with no family, Kabar places great importance on family in spite of his travels.  In fact two of the stories don’t involve Kabar at all.  “The Treasure of Their Destinies” is an adventure of Kabar’s brother Aeneas in which Kabar isn’t even mentioned that I noticed.  This one reminded me of Sinbad.  Kabar’s wife Adina has the starring role in “Sacrifice of the Utukki”.  It’s in part this expanded cast that sets these stories apart from the pack of poor Robert E. Howard imitations.

That’s not the only thing different about this character.  Kabar is noble and good, not the antihero that Conan sometimes is.  He is more than willing to sacrifice or put himself at risk for those he cares about, whether they be friend or family.  Of course, he’s not above keeping some gold for himself or ravishing a beautiful (and willing) woman (or goddess) if opportunity arises.

That’s not to say that Robert E. Howard doesn’t cast a long shadow over these tales.  The author and her husband are former members of REHupa, after all.   The action, swordplay, danger, and sorcery are all there.  And the titles are worthy of Howard.  “The Skull of Zondamar” (nice twist on the end of that one), “To Hunt a God”, “Upon This Forgotten Altar”, “The Bloody Spear of Nineveh”, and others sound like Howard titles.

I found this collection to be enjoyable and fun, a nice addition to my sword and sorcery library.  The author’s website has a list of the stories in this series.  On that list is a novel in progress.  I’m keeping my eye out for it.